Although survivors of adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancer are more likely to experience mental distress compared with persons without cancer, few survivors are receiving professional mental health services, a study published in the journal Cancer has shown.1

To examine the prevalence of mental distress among AYA cancer survivors and identify factors associated with mental distress, researchers analyzed data from 875 AYA cancer survivors whose cancer was diagnosed between ages 15 and 39 years and who were at least 5 years from their initial diagnosis. Patients were included in the 2013 and 2014 National Health Interview Surveys.

Investigators used the Kessler nonspecific mental/psychological distress scale to examine whether patients had none/low, moderate, or severe distress. They also assessed issues of whether respondents talked to mental health professionals within the previous year and if they could afford mental health care.

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The study showed that 23.2% of AYA cancer survivors reported moderate mental distress and 8.4% reported severe distress compared with 16.9% and 3.0% of persons without cancer, respectively (P <.001).

Researchers found that 6.4% of AYA cancer survivors reported not being able to afford mental health care vs 2.3% of those without cancer (P =.002).

In addition, 74.7% of AYA cancer survivors with moderate mental distress and 52.2% of those with severe distress had not talked to a mental health professional.

Results further showed that current smokers were more than 3 times as likely to report severe distress compared with nonsmokers (odds ratio [OR], 3.59; 95% CI, 1.46-8.84; P =.01). Having public and no insurance, as opposed to having private insurance, and reporting sleep-related trouble within the previous week were also associated with a greater amount of mental distress among AYA survivors.

The findings suggest that survivors of AYA cancers require greater access to mental health screening and counseling to address distress and ultimately improve quality of life.


1. Kaul S, Avila JC, Mutambudzi M, Russell H, Kirchhoff AC, Schwartz CL. Mental distress and health care use among survivors of adolescent and young adult cancer: A cross-sectional analysis of the National Health Interview Survey. Cancer. 2016 Nov 17. doi: 10.1002/cncr.30417. [Epub ahead of print]